Christian Frederick Cole, the first Black African scholar at Oxford, depicted in a set of 19th-century cartoons

Bodleian G.A. Oxon. 4o 417, fol. 980 (detail): Christian Frederick Cole
Christian Frederick Cole (1852-1885) depicted in one of the Oxford cartoons from 1879.

What images do we have of Black students at Oxford? The picture above is one of the images made of Christian Frederick Cole, the first Black African scholar at Oxford, in 1879. Last year Pamela Roberts, founder and director of Black Oxford Untold Stories, unveiled the first Black Oxford plaque at University College to honour Christian Frederick Cole. Pamela questioned why the achievements of Cole’s contemporaries were commemorated through portraits or statues, while the only images of Cole are in a series of caricatures. The symposium “Re-Imagining Cole”, at the Bodleian’s Weston Library on 20 October 2018, will explore these rediscovered images of Cole, held at the Library, and will examine the background and context of the images. The symposium will pose the question, should Cole’s image be reimagined?

Colin Harris writes about the series of ‘Shrimpton caricatures’, in the Bodleian collection, in which the depictions of Christian Frederick Cole appear:

The Oxford firm Thomas Shrimpton & Son published and sold photographic reproductions of commissioned or submitted original caricatures from their premises at 23-4 Broad St., from 1868-1901, their shop window display seemingly being their only advertising strategy, there being no evidence of them ever having produced a catalogue or list.

The subject matter includes many aspects of University life, notably University and religious personalities, and the trials and tribulations of undergraduate life, as well as sports and pastimes. Other subjects frequently covered are religion, politics, ‘town and gown’ confrontations, and women (the campaign for women to become full members of the University was going on at this time, and women first became full members in 1920).

The caricatures were essentially produced for undergraduates and mainly by undergraduates; many display learned quotations from classical authors and contemporary poets.  In all there are 1214 images. The Bodleian holds what appear to be the only two known complete sets.

Bodleian G.A. Oxon 4o 414
Bodleian G.A. Oxon 4o 414